John Rich Explains Why He Isn't Requiring Masks at Nashville Bar

John Rich is the owner of Redneck Riviera on Nashville's Lower Broadway, one of a handful of restaurants that recently opened their doors again as part of the city's reopening plan. Rich wore a mask when reopening Redneck Riviera earlier this month and is requiring his employees to wear masks as well, but he told Today that customers will not be subjected to the same rule.

"I think that personal responsibility is a big thing right now," Rich said in response to Craig Melvin's concern that many people may have the coronavirus but appear asymptomatic. "I've seen certain governments around our country, I think, overreach with people. I think you got to treat us like adults. We're all very well aware that this virus is deadly, that this virus is nasty and that you don't want to transmit it. And so a lot of our customers are actually wearing masks when they come in. We also have masks on hand if they don't have one and offer them one. A great thing I've noticed, and I check in with my management every single day at Redneck Riviera, I said, 'Has anyone broken rules or tried to get too close or argue with you about any of the rules?' And the answer has been 'Absolutely not.' I think that's a testament to people's personal responsibility right now."

Redneck Riviera is only partially open for business and Rich said that his business followed the guidelines set out in the area. "I own that brand, I own Redneck Riviera, the building that it's in, those employees are like family members to me, the bands that play there are like our family," he said. "I wanted everybody to know that I had my temperature checked when I walked in, I had a mask and that it is open for business although not completely open like it has been in the past."

When the pandemic began and establishments were ordered to close, Rich vowed to continue paying his employees, though he did not share a specific number. He told the Tennessean that in regards to employees who make the majority of their wages from tips that "we'll find that average over the last two or three months and that's what they're going to get paid." "With no money coming in, obviously all the money moving around is going in one direction, and that's out," he said. "And you don't know how long that's going to be for. It could be for a few months, potentially. But I would urge, and I would even go so far as to challenge other business owners on Broadway in my entertainment bar/nightclub sector, to reach into your pocket and take care of your people."

"Are you going to tell 75 to 80 people, 'Sorry guys, good luck out there?'" he continued. "No. I actually know my bartenders and my servers and my sound guys and managers. I know those people, and it's just not going to happen."